Category Archives: Five Stars
Christopher Adam’s book, I Have Demons, is a collection of three stories that are snapshots of the lives of three different people in and around the city of Ottawa, Canada. As the author describes in the preface, the main characters in these stories in some way “live on the margins,” both physically and socially. From an elderly woman who is neglected by her son and relishes any excitement she can find outside the retirement home in which she lives, to a priest who finds himself struggling to find compassion for a mentally ill man who pressures him into a uncomfortable task, to a struggling college graduate who has to put all dignity aside to try to make it in the big city, the author highlights the struggles of people who are frequently overlooked by the rest of mainstream culture.
The thing that left the biggest impression on me while reading this book was Adam’s excellent use of descriptive writing throughout his stories. His ideas become real for his readers through the way in which he is able to describe things, not just by using many adjectives, but by using detailed imagery that makes his story seem real. Everything that he describes, from a blustery wind to an old woman’s hands, takes shape in the reader’s mind through his words and metaphors. The descriptions create a feeling of uniqueness in his stories, and in their own way, can help the reader to see ordinary things from a fresh perspective.
Having said that, I don’t think the title matches the content of the book in terms of a meaningful description. Although the words in the title come from a quote in the book, I don’t feel like this particular quote gave me the correct impression of the content of the book. While the author may want to convey the idea that all his characters have to deal with their own demons, I think that, without context, the title seems suggested to me that this book is one of horror or suspense. Regardless, because the stories are well-written, thoughtful, and descriptive, I highly recommend this book.
Pages: 130 | ASIN: B07K4QG839
Don’t Drink the Pink, by B. C. R. Fegan, is a children’s story about a little girl, Madeline, and her quirky grandfather who is always full of surprises. From the time that she is one year old, Madeline gets to choose one of her grandfather’s magical potions each year as a birthday gift, always following her grandfather’s warning not to select the pink one. Every birthday she is excited to discover what special ability the potion will give her that day. The tradition continues even as she gets older, but after her grandfather becomes frail and sick, she finally learns the secret behind her grandfather’s last surprise – the pink potion that she has been avoiding every year.
Fegan’s book is a fun and heartwarming story of the special relationship between a girl and her grandfather. I think that the book’s idea of magical potions and special powers will appeal to the author’s young audience and the consistent rhyming style is sure to grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading. The illustrations that accompany the text are well done, as usual, and give the reader delightful visual details that help create a connection to the story. Overall, this is a fun story that is perfectly suited to its audience. Absolutely fun, cute, and entertaining!
Pages: 40 | ASIN: B07SH1M437
It’s not every day that we come across a historical work with as much life in it as we see in Left for Dead at Nijmegen: The True Story of an American Paratrooper in WWII. The level of research and attention to detail that went into the retelling of Eugene Metcalfe’s harrowing tale of survival is shown in spades. The reader has no problem understanding not only the physical situations faced by the main character but also the emotions and state of mind.
The author of this incredible story is hard to identify. Marcus A Nannini is certainly the one who organized and wrote the book, but he did such a good job putting it together that you just can’t help but think it is Gene himself telling you his own story. To add to that effect, Nannini puts a lot of focus on Gene’s sense of humor and personality.
The conversations between important members of the SS as well as many other details seem almost too good to be true from a historical perspective. Nannini dutifully constructs images and characteristics of the POW camps that his subject was forced into that were previously unknown. This work, therefore, is as important to historical study of the period as it is a riveting and fascinating tale.
The story starts off with Gene Metcalfe at school and illustrates his departure from his home, family and friends. Looking to do his part, Gene sets off and quickly finds himself shipping off. From the title, the reader knows there is going to be a traumatic event from the get-go, but what transpires afterwards is quite unpredictable. Left for dead, captured, moved from camp to camp, and bearing witness to many horrifying things, it is hard to believe at times that Gene is going to make it. Even more impactful are the ways that Gene gets himself through the atrocities he experiences.
The writing is direct, simple, and honest, relaying the same feeling that you get from the main character. Left for Dead in Nijmegen, written by Marcus A Nannini and published by Casemate, a resounding recommendation to readers of historical novels.
Pages: 256 | ASIN: B07QM86WDW
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Scooter and Carla have to deal with lots of drama and backstabbing behind the scenes. They face off with Jocasta Binns. On the other hand, there is also a scooter bound gang led by a silver haired goon wreaking havoc on the gardens in the most contemptuous way. The Funeral Service is saddled with tension between the ‘siblings’.
The author has weaved quite the hilarious tale set in a funeral service establishment. The story highlights the inner workings of managing such an establishment which, it turns out, is like any other family business. The story is so vividly narrated that the reader cannot help but join the world.
The plot is well developed and fast paced and the characters are multi-dimensional. This makes it easy for the reader to visualize them and get acquainted. It is particularly interesting how Jocasta is introduced to the reader. She is introduced with her crackling fingers and her scandalous origin. She is not fazed by her old age and remains stoic and a force to be reckoned with. The Jocastrator can withstand anything and anyone. She inspires the kind of admiration that is mixed with fear. Then there is Scooter, who seems very sweet and charming. He is like the sunshine that peeks through the curtains in the morning. Then Charlie, the poor old man who has been turned into a mere informant for the brothers. Every character has a backstory and their uniqueness shines through regardless of their role in the story. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book.
Scooter Nation contains all the elements of a great novel. Thoughts and ideas flow seamlessly while moments of laugh out loud humor keep you engaged in a story that is surprising at every page turn.
This is a book I can see myself reading again because the characters, incontinent though some may be, make you want too keep coming back. It has managed to surpass expectations which were already high from the first installment in the series. A perfect book for a good chuckle.
Pages: 196 | ASIN: B07RQ92W83
Commander James Cody disappeared into a wormhole created by his own invention 100 years ago and is currently only a fable. This is all unbeknownst to him. He shares a cell with a creature so perfect she might as well have been conjured up in his head. She is the leader of a fierce group of fighting women. With mutual mistrust between them, can they come together to make it out alive?
The author has woven a delightfully strange and completely engrossing plot that bounces between James past and his present. The story evokes different kinds of emotions at different junctures which leaves the reader feeling bereft when the story comes to an end. The story pulls the reader in and goes on a whirlwind journey through different time periods as well as through Commander Cody’s mind.
The story moves quickly and efficiently. The setting is drawn so realistically, and scientific facts handled so deftly, that it’s hard to tell fact from fiction at times.
The book has a classic plot that is elevated with unrelenting wit and some lighthearted moments. The Optical Lasso is filled with shocking twists and action packed scenes colored with creative genius.
I enjoyed the characters in this book and thought they were all uniquely different yet relatable. Lt Cat is not to be messed with but she still maintains her femininity in a way that makes her character likeable. Commander James is friendly and extraordinary all at the same time. I found him to be a wholesome contradiction. Both characters were unexpected but still captivating and interesting.
This book is suitable for young adults and adults alike. It has characters the YA crowd can admire and be inspired by. They might not completely connect with the interactions but they will for sure love the plot and Marc’s imagination. The adults can relate to the characters and simply enjoy the adult adventure they embark on. You’ll feel like you’re on a first name basis whit the characters by the end of this book.
Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07QFC1WZL
Ena and her father are coping with multiple sudden changes in life as they have known it for centuries. They are giving up Ena’s younger siblings, and they are watching as the age-old practice of the pleasure dens are done away with. Nothing is as it should be in their world. When Ena is approached by Blodeuwedd, the matchmaking goddess, to run what she describes as a simple errand, Ena takes the opportunity. Little does she realize that agreeing to help Blodeuwedd will lead her to some of the most challenging moments of her life while opening her eyes to her true self.
Tarrant Smith jumps right into the action with Resurrected Darkly. From the first pages, the reader is swept into Ena’s world and given a myriad of clues as to her origins. Ena’s willingness to appease the goddess, Blodeuwedd, and venture into a strange castle alone make her an appealing character and one worth calling a favorite. Readers following Smith’s Darkly series will be pleased to see that Ena, in previous books, is the focus of this installment. As intriguing as her character is in the previous books, Ena endears herself to readers with the unique characteristics she possesses as both a dragon and fey.
I was excited to see Crank as the male focus in this book. I tend to gravitate toward secondary characters in novels, and Crank is one who caught my eye in previous books. His gruff demeanor and bluntness add an element of humor to Smith’s books. Crank, however, takes a dark turn in Resurrected Darkly. Readers will hurt for him as he faces a struggle beyond anything he has faced before. The guilt he bears is overwhelming and has grown into a burden that is almost more than he is able to bear.
Smith includes descriptions of “the enchanted” in her work; humans who have been taken into the fey realm to serve the fey. They seem to live simple lives, almost robotic, but their roles are quite complex. Ena, who has more of an affinity for the enchanted than most, shows actual emotion over the enchanted.
I found Resurrected Darkly to be the most engaging of the books in the series. The dynamic between Ena and Crank is simply enchanting. The impact that Ena, a hardened soul herself, has on the tormented Crank is just short of miraculous. I enjoyed watching the growth that took place between the two.
Smith brings together a multitude of characters from the first four books of her Darkly series as she heals one of her most engaging characters from an unspeakable trauma. Readers who enjoyed the first four Darkly books will be more than pleased with Smith’s fifth installment–a fantastic addition to the romantic fantasy series.
Pages:282 | ASIN: B07NMKM7CH
Cora, not part of the upper crust of society, is considered a low ranking fey. A handmaiden with an iron-clad memory, Cora has not forgotten Neb and the hurt he caused her in the past. Neb is as unseelie as he is unsavory in Cora’s mind, but he has other plans for the two of them–plans over which he has no control. While a romance is the furthest thing from Cora’s mind, she has no way of knowing that Neb will be the one to make plans for so very much more than a fleeting romance. Neb is about to change the course for both their lives no matter what it may take.
Tarrant Smith has added yet another colorful book to her Darkly series. Surrendered Darkly follows Cora and Neb on their journey back to one another and along a tumultuous and unlikely courtship. Cora is a strong-willed fey with a mind of her own, and Neb is determined to figure out why he feels so drawn to Cora, a woman he is convinced he should remember.
Blue, a mother figure to Cora and a goddess in her own right, is a truly interesting character. She has many layers Smith reveals throughout the book. Perhaps Blue’s most striking characteristic is her tendency to mother over Cora. As with all of Smith’s characters, I am always amazed and somewhat taken aback by their appearances in human forms. Sometimes I feel as if I am reading two different books.
Smith shows readers a little more of the reactions given by mortals. When Neb finds himself in town, readers are able to witness along with Neb the reactions of the humans around them when Neb isn’t quite in his full human form. It’s refreshing to see that the mortals around the seelie and unseelie are not totally oblivious to them. I find that adds a nice layer of believability to the fantasy being woven by Smith.
Of the Darkly books, I find this one to be the most steeped in romance though it lacks the frequent love scenes. The basis of this installment is the relationship, or lack thereof, between Neb and Cora. The entire plot centers around deep feelings taking over Neb and how he will deal with them. Cora, on the other hand, has a battle to wage within herself as she faces Neb a second time following her previous heartache. Readers who are fond of deep-seated romances will enjoy this fourth book in the series.
I am always intrigued by Smith’s abilities to write characters who are tied together emotionally and by their abilities.
From the first page, this romantic fantasy engages readers with the lives of colorful characters and explores realms via two headstrong main characters, Neb and Cora. Theirs is a story fans of romance won’t want to miss.
Pages: 266 | ASIN: B005ZWIIWK
I didn’t realize how much I missed my friend Loren MacKenzie until I picked up One Fire Burns Out Another’s Burning by Sarah Butler Zalesky. It may sound clichéd to refer to the protagonist of the Wheeler series as my “friend,” but over the course of the three Wheeler novels, I truly feel as if I’ve gotten to know Loren as a close friend. This third installment picks up where the second, Wheeler in Darkness, left off: Loren recently experienced a painful trauma and death and is struggling to cope with this recent trauma as well as the trauma of her childhood that has resurfaced. Combine those experiences with her high-stress career as a professional cyclist and status as the girlfriend of a famous celebrity and you have Loren MacKenzie, my friend. As in her first two novels, Zalesky packs a ton of action into the novel’s 270 pages, though the story never feels rushed. Rather, the pages feel as if you’re flying along on a bike with Loren, never knowing what’s around the next corner but looking forward to the adventure.
One Fire Burns should be read after completing the first two Wheeler novels, as Zalesky spends a modest amount of time recapping the action of the previous books. Repeat readers will be thrilled to find the return of familiar faces in Loren’s close-knit cycling teammates, the ever-charming actor Graham Atherton, and other supporting characters. But, Zalesky also adds in a few new intriguing characters, as well as deepens the character development of her existing characters.
Where Zalesky shines in this novel, though, is through her development of Loren. She skillfully develops Loren as a more mature and multi-faceted character. Though Loren has always been complex, this time she is finally able to tackle some of her metaphorical demons that have plagued her throughout the earlier Wheeler books. Loren’s romantic interest, Graham, also receives some well-deserved attention from Zalesky. He’s still the same Shakespeare-quoting heartthrob, but I finally felt as if I got to know Graham beyond his gorgeous exterior. As Loren and Graham develop, so does their relationship into a more serious and meaningful one.
Zalesky also brings back the thrilling, nail-biting race scenes in One Fire Burns, as the novel takes place in the spring racing season. Though I am not very familiar with the ins and outs of professional cycling, I love Zalesky’s electrifying play-by-plays of the cycling competitions. She skillfully pulls readers along the race track with Loren, explaining the strategy involved in cycling while also making the competition relatable to readers who may have never been on a bike. There is something universally thrilling about competitions, and Zalesky taps into this with several key cycling races this season for Loren.
In One Fire Burns, Zalesky offers readers a unique and magical blend of thriller, romance, and sports. As before, Zalesky gracefully handles the sensitive issues that Loren experiences, including emotional and physical abuse and harassment, creating a thoughtful and complex novel for readers.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B07SG73LH9
Hiding far from her father, Riona never believed her life of isolation could change, much less change so drastically. For years, she has remained under the protection of the Seelie Queen and existed as a blemish on the face of her people. Riona knows her place and understands that she, for many reasons, must remain in hiding. When Riona, also known as Molly, is snatched from her home and finds herself assigned as the mate of the queen’s captain, Sel, she is more than baffled at her new station in life. Riona can’t help but wonder, and worry, what this actually means for her future.
Kept Darkly, the third book in the Darkly series by Tarrant Smith follows the unlikely pairing of Riona and Sel. Riona, by all rights, is far below Sel’s station in life and is painfully aware of the love he is said to have for the Seelie Queen. Smith’s decision to match Riona and Sel makes for an interesting plot that keeps the reader guessing as to the ultimate outcome–and hoping for a happy ending for the oppressed Riona.
I am always amazed at Smith’s character descriptions. Gloric is a prime example. An unseelie and questionable character all on his own, he is capable of metamorphosis. Smith draws a detailed picture of Gloric’s complete transformation in front of Riona. These types of scenes are definitely worth a reread and one of the hallmarks of Smith’s installments in the Darkly series. In addition, I was quite intrigued at the way in which Smith incorporates shapeshifting as one of Riona’s characteristics.
In the previous Darkly book, Smith provides readers with moments of comic relief, and Kept Darkly delivers the same. These brief scenes are welcome as the overall theme of the book is primarily thoughtful and brooding. With this installment, it’s not so much the dialogue that makes for the moments of comic relief but the images conjured by Smith’s narrative. I was particularly drawn to the levity created during the interactions between Sel and the sprite, Urias.
Smith’s characters are fascinating on many levels. Crank is easily my favorite of all Smith’s characters–I am partial to the unseelie. He is a no-holds-barred type of guy who says exactly what he means and has no problem making himself clear to anyone fortunate enough to listen to his tales. As with the metamorphosis of Gloric, I was impressed with the transfer of energy that takes place between Riona and Sel. What appears as a hopeless situation for Riona is suddenly turned around with minimal effort on Sel’s part.
Smith’s writing is beautifully descriptive and rich with character development. Readers following the series will enjoy getting to know Sel and watching his relationship with Riona bloom. The better part of book 3 feels dedicated to developing character relationships and describing the unique struggle between the seelie and unseelie groups, and fans of fantasy romance will find Smith’s work particularly fascinating.
Pages: 334 | ASIN: B004XWJ8TK
No Old Souls at Fury Tavern, written by Dave Matthes is a must read for anyone entertained by the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. In the story, we meet a regular guy, working in a regular place, who deals with a series of seemingly mundane problems. The ways in which the characters interact with their world, however, is much more interesting than what you would find in your rundown neighborhood dive bar.
Despite a few typos and minor grammatical errors, the writing is excellent. The author’s style is unapologetic and rich, with plenty of depth worked into his narrative to keep you hooked throughout the book. Never too simplified or overly complex, the short, bite-sized chapters keep the pace moving at a quick beat which is obviously what the intention was.
Characterization and world-building are areas that Dave Matthes excels at. While reading No Old Souls sat Fury Tavern, it is impossible not to relate with either the protagonist, Rocko Pitts, or any of the other inhabitant of his world. Each character is carefully crafted and comes with his or her own set of idiosyncrasies and personality. And, each of the characters seems to be placed very well within the world that Matthes creates.
From the descriptions of the physical attributes of Pitts’ world to the imagery – and empathy – that gets drummed up as the characters interact with their world, it is no difficult task to forget that you are reading a work of fiction. The world surrounding Pitts seems as real as the one we all inhabit and that makes identifying with and relating to him a satisfying experience, indeed.
The author is able to transport you into his world and the ride couldn’t be more believable. Add that to the fact that the story is entertaining, and you have yourself a highly-rated book that should be on your must-read list.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07R881T6Y